Active Endpoints Announces ActiveVOS 9.0 and New Data Center Edition

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Today, we launched Active 9.0 Enterprise Edition and a new Data Center Edition. The new releases offer multi-tenancy, high scalability and secure multi-site clustering for private clouds and SaaS providers. Details are in the press release below, click the “View” button.

To get started, take a look at a video tour of ActiveVOS 9.0. Explore features and capabilities in the guide entitled “What’s New in ActiveVOS 9.0.” View the comparison chart for both editions to see which one best suits your needs.

Give us a call. We’d love to discuss the following with you as you explore your SOA-based business process management (BPM) options:

- Comparing the value of private and public clouds
- Determining the right architecture for a private cloud
- Leveraging the cost/benefits of a multi-tenant architecture
- Evaluating the right BPMS platform for SaaS providers

Active Endpoints Hires Rich Noyes as New Vice President of Sales

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Welcome to Rich Noyes, Vice President of Sales! Rich is the latest addition to the Active Endpoints management team.

There are two important reasons why we’ve hired Rich. First, scale. We continue to gain traction in the BPM space, validating that users are seeking alternative approaches to the usual suspects when it comes to implementing BPM. Our inside sales team needs to keep pace with this explosive growth. Second, expertise. Rich’s deep enterprise software sales experience for a broad range of technologies will guide the company’s sales into rapidly expanding markets for BPM.

Read the news announcement below for details.

Another Invalid Criticism of BPMN 2.0

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

John Everhard, technical director at Pegasystems has joined the chorus of voices claiming that “BPMN is too hard for business.”

He said:

“BPMN has some deficiencies. The UI is represented as a service call. It is not tightly integrated with the model unlike Pega’s screenflows and flow actions. There is no concept of Case Management which forms an increasingly important component of enterprise BPM suites. There is no concept of business rules, other than a small expression language, and linkage to invoke a rule from a separate technology.”

While I agree that the full BPMN 2.0 symbol set is not well suited to business users, this is not really the argument made by Everhard.  The main point seems to be the same one that Jim Sinur made last summer (and which I talked about in my CTO Tuesday episode #54).

What Everhard and Sinur are complaining about is that there isn’t a different symbol that reflects the type of work that is being done, for example resolving a case in a case management system or paying an invoice in an accounts payable system.  They don’t like the choice of icon at the top left of a service task. Service tasks are used to represent most kinds of work done automatically (i.e. services), and there is just one symbol that looks like this:

ServiceTask icon

The problem with this criticism is that it doesn’t account for the extensibility built into BPMN 2.0.  The standard says that you can create your own icons if you want. The actual text is section 10.2.3, under “Task Types” subsection, and it says…

“The list of Task types may be extended along with any corresponding indicators”.

So go ahead. Feel free to create your own icons for the different kinds of tasks you have!

Does that remove the value of using the standard? Of course not. The icon sits that sits in the top left of a rounded rectangle, just represents a standard task. Tasks have important semantics that are irrespective of their type and which differentiate them from gateways, events, artifacts and other modeling constructs. So why not just stick with the standard, but extend it with icons that match your different task types?

However, I feel that the real argument with BPMN isn’t about the pictorial representation, but how well suited is the full icon set to business users. In my opinion, the only way for BPMN to be effective for a business user is to reduce the complexity and use a very small subset of BPMN (even smaller than the “core”).

Take a look at Socrates. This is a product that is designed for use by business users that uses a tiny fraction of the BPMN standard and ALSO uses custom icons for different types of tasks. The combination results in an environment that is natural to business users, but produces diagrams that are easy to understand and very pleasant to read.

European Telecom Tele2 Scales with ActiveVOS BPMS

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Where the rubber meets the road: Customers.

We are happy to share the news that Active Endpoints customer Tele2, a European telecom headquartered in Sweden, with over 30 million customers in 10 countries, has achieved some remarkable milestones implementing the ActiveVOS business process management system (BPMS):

- Scaled to six million transactions per month with goals to 12 million by year end

- Implemented in a third of the time compared with prior open source approaches

- Expanded to 20 integration projects, 50 business processes, 100s of web services

- Eliminated the need for customer service representative (CSR) intervention

Click “View” below to read the press release and how telecommunications provider Tele2 uses ActiveVOS to integrate its core billing and provisioning applications.

3 Steps to Get Business Users On Your Side

Friday, May 6th, 2011

We understand you’ve spent years implementing a SOA but your business users still want more. They want new applications and they need them now. Your architecture is cool, but it’s a constant struggle to keep pace with all of the demands for new applications and changes to existing applications. To increase your bandwidth you need a tool that business people can use to build and maintain applications that exploit the systems infrastructure you have built for them.

In a webinar presented live from the floor of Red Hat Summit 2011, our CTO Dr. Michael Rowley and guest speaker Mike Gualtieri, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc., cover best practices and tools that dramatically change the way IT and business people collaborate to create and deploy decision-based web applications.

Mike shares the three steps to delegate development of simpler applications to your business users by allowing them to change existing applications and Michael does a live demo of Socrates, an add-on to the ActiveVOS BPMS, which empowers business users and/or domain experts to build simple, yet powerful web applications that guide users to specified outcomes.

View this replay to see how guided BPM is the way to go.

Capturing Expertise to Improve Productivity

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Active Endpoints CTO Dr. Michael Rowley presented a brand new technology called Socrates, which allows IT to safely provide their business users with the ability to capture domain expertise into a process that can be embedded into other applications. Dr. Rowley also explained that these “guided” applications allow users to become much more consistent in the way that they do their work and as a result much more productive.

A Trifecta of Updates!

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I didn’t believe it was possible, until I saw it with my own eyes. Not content with launching a fantastic productivity solution for two weeks ago, we managed to release three other new items into the wild this week as well.

First on the agenda is ActiveVOS 8.0.5.  Although this is mainly a point release, we’ve fixed a couple of defects and polished a few of the features. If you’re an ActiveVOS customer you should have received an email from our highly skilled support staff by now, giving you details of how to download the update. If it hasn’t arrived in your inbox just yet, follow this link to download the packages.

Second, we made an update to our ActiveVOS add-on product, Socrates. Although we released version 1.0 a little over six weeks ago, our dedicated engineers have been working to implement many of the positive suggestions we received from early customers. The Socrates core that you know and love remains the same, but we’ve reworked much of the end-user interface to improve visibility and navigation. To be honest, there was a whole host of UI improvements, so let me just point out some of the more noticeable accomplishments:

  • Rich Data Input Controls: Support for date, time and date-time, text area, masked fields for phone and social security numbers.
  • Customizable Themes: Support for customized themes that match your own corporate look and feel.
  • Guidance Tree Tagging: Guidance trees can be organized by topic in the Home tab. Each guidance tree can be tagged with an unlimited number of terms.
  • Enhanced Search: The editor now includes a very intuitive search box that locates any text on the canvas or inside any instruction box.
  • Improved Screen Step Form Editor: Screen steps can host data fields inside the instructions area.
  • Auto-Step Screen Generation: Screen steps can be automatically generated based on the automated step inputs.
  • Expanded Browser Support: Support for Firefox 4 and IE 9.

Well done to our development and quality engineers. They really are a talented bunch.

The third big item is an upgrade to our Socrates Instant Trial with the new 1.1 enhancements. We strongly encourage you to see them for yourself. Just login here. It’s extremely easy to try and so I strongly encourage you to see it for yourself.  In addition there’s also a new tutorial too!

So there you go.  As a marketing manager I’ve violated everything I learned.  I should have given you just ONE call to action, but instead I’ve given you three.  So go and download ActiveVOS 8.0.5 and Socrates 1.1 today, but also don’t forget to try the new Socrates Instant Trial.  You won’t be disappointed.


CTO Tuesdays #54: Is BPMN for Business Users?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

BPMN was designed for the general modeling (and documenting) the processes of businesses, and in this episode of CTO Tuesdays, Dr. Michael Rowley discussed the kinds of people who are most likely to be successful at using the constructs. He argued that general purpose concepts of BPMN process modeling are probably too much for the typical business user, but proposed that BPMN can be used ONLY if the problem is significantly narrowed down. He explained that this is the exact approach that drove the Socrates design requirements. Michael then described how Socrates narrows the scope and uses a small subset of BPMN that business users can easily manage. To further illustrate his point, he demonstrated the creation of screenflows with a subset of BPMN. Michael also briefly demonstrated some of the more sophisticated BPMN capabilities and explained why they are needed for general purpose process modeling.

“Cloud” will eventually be synonymous with SaaS

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I originally posted this on the The Future of Cloud Computing blog, but thought people here would like to see it as well.

One of the things that I expect will happen in cloud computing is that the definition of cloud computing will change. Early on, with the efforts of Amazon Web Services and Google, it has been almost synonymous with infrastructure as a service (IaaS) rather than software as a service (SaaS). However, thanks to the efforts of and other SaaS vendors, “cloud” is starting to evolve to mean the same thing as SaaS in the marketplace.

For example, it is clear that Salesforce is a SaaS vendor, but if you look at their formidable marketing you don’t see anything about SaaS. Instead you see that they are “the leader in cloud computing” and they offer the “Sales Cloud”, the “Service Cloud” and other offerings that all talk about the cloud. I expect they will be successful and to most people the term “cloud” will come to mean applications that are paid for by subscription and hosted “somewhere on the net”. In other words, what SaaS means now.

Will infrastructure-as-a-service go away? No. But the move to put custom applications into the cloud is just not gaining as much traction as the pundits have expected. There are some advantages to moving existing applications to an external hosting provider, but there are concerns as well. In some cases the concerns may be overblown. For example, some security concerns around cloud deployments may be more of a fear of the unknown than a real threat. Nonetheless, perception of security, or lack thereof, is as important as reality when it comes to making a big decision like moving an existing custom application to the cloud.

So, with the value of moving applications to the cloud being incremental, but the fear of possible risks being real, the movement of custom applications to the cloud will be gradual. By contrast, adoption of cloud applications appears to be moving much more quickly. This may be because the applications in question tend not to be the secret sauce of the business. The business derives little or no competitive advantage by having a better CRM, accounting or HR software.

There is also a big difference in how much power is taken away from IT departments in the two scenarios. If you move an existing application to the cloud, then IT will still be involved. They won’t be managing the hardware, but they will still be managing the runtime environment and the software. They are just doing it from a distance. With a move to a cloud application, you get rid of IT altogether. Unfortunately, IT has a big black mark on their reputation at many companies, so the idea of getting them completely out of the question carries a lot of weight.

So, with existing applications moving to cloud infrastructure providers being gradual, while the move the cloud applications accelerating every day, all the attention and discussion around cloud will focus on cloud applications until “cloud” becomes synonymous with “could application”.

CTO Tuesdays #53: Simplifying data usage with Socrates

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

In previous episodes, Michael Rowley explained how Socrates simplifies the design of screenflows through the innovative concept of guidance trees. In this episode, Michael demonstrated how Socrates also simplifies how the data is used. We saw how Socrates screenflows could call automated steps, but unlike technologies that have come before, did not require the designer to map input and output parameters to variables. This unique approach allowed the domain expert to focus on creating the guidance tree logic and delegated the complexity of data mapping to the developer instead.

CTO Tuesdays #52: Guidance Trees: A New Design Paradigm

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

In this episode of CTO Tuesdays, Michael Rowley debated how guidance trees offered a new paradigm for creating guided applications. He discussed what could be done with a guidance tree and explained how the metaphor simplified the design process over other approaches such as workflow and process modeling. Michael also demonstrated how the new paradigm could be leveraged in a powerful yet elegant manner to simplify the creation and manipulation of these trees. We ended the session with a very lively Q&A with the audience offering lots of comments, questions and viewpoints.

CTO Tuesdays #51: Is Screenflow a Business Process?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

In episode 50 of CTO Tuesday Michael Rowley introduced Socrates, a new technology for creating Screenflows and demonstrated the guidance trees used to create them. In this episode, Michael postulated whether screenflows really are “business processes”. It’s not surprising to discover that the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. During the talk, Michael spent time diving into Socrates and how screenflows could be integrated with what would be unhesitatingly called a business processes.

KMWorld: Socrates “shows great potential”

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

In KMWorld’s recent post about our new screenflow product, Socrates, we here at Active Endpoints couldn’t agree more on two points. One, is that Socrates “shows great potential” since it empowers domain experts to design and deploy screenflow applications in just minutes, without any training or technical skills. Well, of course we agree there. Two, Socrates did go on trial for challenging the norm, which is just what we are trying to accomplish with Socrates. Why not give these expert, but usually non-technical, folks an intuitive way to easily and quickly automate their core processes to make their teams more productive? The uses cases are endless. Things like refund processes, sales promotions, ticketing, resolving Internet and cell phone outages. It’s wherever you have a question-answer workflow where your users are led to specific outcomes. Socrates uses the standards-based execution engine in our BPMS, ActiveVOS, so all the code is happening but there is no need for these domain experts to know it, or even know that it exists.

We have not seen anything quite like this before and are sure you have not, either. Take a look and let us know what you think – sign up for the Socrates Instant Trial. You’ll be designing screenflows faster than being able to digest any Greek philosohers’ texts, even the abridged versions!

CTO Tuesdays #50: An Introduction to Socrates

Monday, March 7th, 2011

CTO Tuesdays reached a significant milestone this week with its 50th episode. So to commemorate this occasion Michael Rowley unveiled a brand new product called Socrates. This innovative product was designed to enable business users and domain experts to build simple, yet powerful web applications that guide to successful outcomes. These applications can be used for troubleshooting, diagnostics, up sell promotions or refund processes. In fact Socrates is useful for any customer service situation that requires a user to ask questions and receive answers in order to reach a good resolution. So sit back and watch how Michael effortlessly puts the product through its paces during its world premiere.

Introducing Socrates

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I am very pleased to announce the release of an exciting new product from Active Endpoints named Socrates. It is an extremely simple web-based design environment for creating screenflows, which walk a user through instructions and questions, guiding them to do the right thing at the right time.

Socrates was first conceived during our work with a large telecommunications customer that needed a better way to guide their call center staff as they handled calls from their customers. Their agents had previously been working with a dashboard-style application that allowed them to run any tests or ask any question from the user in order to resolve the user’s problem. This was OK for their most experienced agents, but most of their agents were at a loss – inefficiently muddling through based on what they could remember from their training. The result was that too many cases had to be escalated to the next tier of service, which is both more expensive for the company as well as requiring more time from the customer.

Socrates guides the user through screens, prompting him or her with questions that should be asked, and having the answers to those question lead to appropriate system tests or new questions. The key requirement though, is that it has to be possible for a subject matter expert (i.e. domain expert) to be able to create or modify the screenflow that is shown to their agents. The tree of possible questions and tests is very large and they are always thinking of new questions or approaches to solving customer problems. If IT has to get involved in order to make any change, then making the change may be such a pain that people wouldn’t bother and it wouldn’t get updated.

Getting a screenflow design environment to really be simple enough for a domain expert to use without any help from IT is hard to do right. Most products that attempt this kind of thing try to do too much. They try to be complete workflow or business process modeling and execution environments. In my experience, once you get to that level of power and flexibility, then no matter how simple any given feature is, the full combination of features and capabilities becomes too much for most people to understand and work with.

We’ve created our design environment to be specialized to this kind of use case. That allowed us to think out of the box for a new kind of design paradigm that matched the use case – and we found a great one. It is called a guidance tree and it is a true technological leap forward in providing a simple but powerful design environment.

You can read more about guidance trees and their use by Socrates by reading my white paper, which describes the main tenets behind its design. Or, you can skip all the arguments for why it is easier and see for yourself. Take a drive of the technology in our demo environment. It is pre-populated with a few interesting guidance trees, which you can try modifying or you can create new ones. There are two primary restrictions in the demo environment, which wouldn’t be true with the full product: 1) you can’t create your own custom automated steps; and 2) no one sees your guidance trees except you.

So what are you waiting for? Give it a try.